What is it about the Buhari regime that makes it vulnerable to dead weight controversies on which it has hardly convincing or logically forceful enough argumentation? Five of such controversies can be identified without much research.
The first would be the emerging demand for the president’s resignation on health ground. It is a controversy that has been foretold the moment the Lagos lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa issued a statement in January 2017 making the claim that the president has been incapacitated. It was only a matter of time before the debate began. It was deflected by the president’s 43 or so days away in the UK for medical attention when people concentrated more on praying for him than insisting on his resignation. It would have remained so if the president were showing up on a sustained basis, even if infrequently. Seizure of power by cabals would have attended such infrequent involvement but how is seizure of power to be established. Now, this has been complicated as the president’s appearances have been dwindling. So, should he resign or not? The answer will depend on where one stands. For the government or its supporters, the president is on a slow recovery and people should be patient. For critics, the president is so sick that he should resign, a position that presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, for example, has sought to annul by mapping it unto the much larger aggregate voters who elected the president. But would that end the controversy? It would not because there is no guarantee that the opposition would not move from asking the president to declare his health status to doing so themselves at some point. How it is resolved would, however, not be found in any textbook case study. Nigeria operates on its own terms over issues such as this. But it is a dead weight controversy.
Second must be about the tendency to exclusionary practices in recruitment of state officials levelled against the government. The appointments so far are widely seen as lopsided in regional terms. Government might be a vast field of play, a very complex field indeed but sticking to something that even a group of intellectuals from the north recently kicked against in writing seems a bit difficult to comprehend. Should there be any reasons for the appointments to be the way they are, then the government must be able to offer an explanation, even if it means resorting to terminological inexactitude, to make it commonsensical. The government doesn’t do that. They leave people to guess. And people are guessing in several directions. Is it a way of closing gaps that actually existed against the north or Muslims before? This is the impression the Muslim Rights Concern, (MURIC) is giving. But, is MURIC a government department? If imbalance is the case, why is it impossible to produce the empirical details that speak to the reality? Perhaps it is time for a newspaper to do what the defunct New Nigerian did a decade ago about who is where in the Federal Public Service instead of all these voodoo politics. Could it be a case of the inherent temptation to take advantage of power in favour of the north where the president comes from? Assuming this is correct, hasn’t the north since said that the temptation to give young people the impression that merit doesn’t matter should be abandoned because that tradition will not be in their own or anybody’s interest in the world ahead? Could it be for religious reasons? It cannot be given Abdullahi Bin Fodio’s argument that a country may not perish for irreligiousness but cannot survive nepotism in politics. Finally, could it be that this is arising because the president is actually not the one doing the appointment but some people who can afford to be so brazen for whatever reasons, hoping to deal with the consequences later?
The third should be how the government could be so fragmented as to become the real anti-thesis of its very welcome anti-corruption war. Now, the disarray here has taken a new turn with the House of Representatives saying the status quo is too problematic to be acceptable. By that, it means either the president seeks a court ruling on the Senate’s action rejecting Ibrahim Magu as the chairperson of the EFCC or it accepts the rejection but not keep Magu as acting chair. It remains intriguing to many that the veto power of the secret service is, for the first time, enacted at an autonomous level in the politics of confirmation or non – confirmation of the chairperson of the core anti-corruption agency – the EFCC. For those, it is one thing for the Senate to stand against the confirmation of any nominee but completely another for it to base this on a security report from the secret service operating as a technocratic facility directly under the president. Observers are wondering whether this is liberalisation of power that allows the DSSS to interrogate presidential discretion independently or a simple case of governmental incoherence? The question is if there is any chance that popular interest would emerge the winner rather than the loser in this hegemonic tussle over the ascendancy of the Ibrahim Magu tendency at the EFCC however it is resolved? And how might that happen, who will make it happen and when?
The fourth controversy and a deadening one at that would be that of not containing herdsmen violence. The implications in terms of famine in the locations where these have been concentrated is argued to be an obvious reason for action to have been taken. This is not to talk of the violence involved. It is trite political sociology to say that violence anywhere in Nigeria is a challenge to the authority of the Nigerian State. And that people would logically connect state power or the controllers of state power to any such violence immediately there is no robust and irresistible reaction from the government of the day. This is, unfortunately, what has happened in that, subsequently, even people who were not prepared to go that far began to buy into the inference that the observable silence of the government on herdsmen violence, especially in the 2016 Democracy Day broadcast of the president, communicates official endorsement of the phenomenon at the highest level of power. To this moment, this image is intact. Nothing has happened to change it.
The fifth and last is the weightiest of the dead weights in the crisis of performance relative to the concept of change. Here, those who mistook Buhari’s concept of change for anything transformative have been in shock. The idea of Buhari as the last of the retired Generals who could confront the possibility of even the most rudimentary stage of state led industrialisation is now dead and buried. Instead of anything in that direction, it is endless narratives of fighting corruption. As crucial as fighting corruption is, that would take a second seat to state led industrialisation, particularly under Buhari, the very likely last retired General under whom that could have happened. The remaining elite seeking power in Nigeria do not even manifest any appreciation of that imperative. They think Nigeria can gradually achieve development the confused and chaotic way it is going. And they are not worried about the possible implications of approaching modernisation from the service sector as is currently happening. Some people doubt that there is really anything relating to a legacy if this is not it under Buhari. This is not because Buhari made this a campaign issue but the question that have been posed is where and what is corruption if not how Nigeria was forcefully divorced from industrialisation by crippling state owned enterprises, particularly Ajaokuta, to pave way for so-called private sector operators. Even if the president were not confronting any health challenges, he has still lost the opportunity to have registered the a legacy on a transformative scale. In the unlikely event of a second term, he has lost such scale because, popular as anti-corruption is, it is an item for discursive battles in which he could still lose out.
Where do all these leave Nigeria?